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A Guide to Planting trees, Shrubs and Perennials in the Fall

Updated: Sep 14, 2022

Did you know that the fall season is an excellent time to plant trees, shrubs and perennials? Since these plants are beginning to go into winter dormancy and don't need to support green growth, they can put more energy into establishing roots.

Here are some simple steps to plant successfully in the fall.

• Remove and soak the root ball of the plant in a bucket or large pail of water.

• Dig your planting hole twice the width of the diameter of the pot your plant comes in and the same depth. Make sure to loosen the soil around the sides and the base of the planting hole. Water the planting hole thoroughly.

• If the roots of the plant are constricted at the base of the rootball, gently spread those roots apart before proceeding to plant.

• Plant your tree, shrub or perennial then add a layer of shredded bark mulch 5 to 6 inches thick over the planting area to the outer edge of the planting hole. Do not push mulch up against the stem of the plant. This could lead to stem rot.

• Do not fertilize trees, shrubs or perennials in the fall, since plants are going into dormancy and shouldn't be encouraged to produce green growth that could lead to cell death over winter.

• Water your tree, shrub or perennial thoroughly on a regular basis until October 15th or until the leaves change color and drop off, whichever comes first. In dry conditions you should water every day until this occurs in order to provide good soil conditions for freeze up.

• A soft pruning of 6 inches of the top growth can be applied to most shrubs before Sept. 15th. This allows open wounds to seal over before winter. It is not recommended to prune after that date.

• Perennials can be trimmed back in a similar matter. Refrain from cutting them back to the ground. The remaining stalks will help to catch leaves and trap snow and act as an insulating blanket over winter.

• Trees should not be pruned until late February or March of the following year.

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